Isn’t a drug addict a person with weak character?
Addiction is a disease of the brain. Just like cancer changes the function of a person’s lungs, drugs and alcohol change the function of the brain. Each person is different. We all have unique genetic makeup, unique emotional makeup, unique physical makeup, unique personal histories and unique spiritual makeup. When the function of the brain is altered by the substance, there can be a dramatic influence on the behavior of the addict.
No One Wants to Become Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol!
One of the symptoms of addiction is the craving for the drug. An otherwise rational, controlled individual is compelled to seek and use the drug. In order to feel good, in order to feel “normal,” the addict needs to use. While there is an element of choice and personal responsibility attached to addiction, it is all too easy just to say the addict is addicted because they have a weak character.
Nobody wants to be addicted to drugs. And who is a drug addict anyway? Addiction does not limit itself to the poor, any particular cultural or ethnic group, any race, nor does it care about age or profession.
Here’s another way of looking at it. If you start from the premise that human frailty can manifest itself in many ways, that we are all in a sense “broken,” it is logical to assess that addiction is a disease of the human condition.
There is an excellent Biblical description of this. Even if you are not a Christian believer, the logic of the example has valuable insight into the human condition.
In the New Testament, the Book of Romans, Chapter 7, beginning with the 14th verse, the Apostle Paul unfolds a kind of spiritual tug-of-war. He describes how he does not understand his own behavior. He wants to do the right thing, but he doesn’t. He says he does what he hates. He attributes his behavior to the sin living within him.
For the addict, even if they want to abstain, their behavior is driven by the addiction within them.
Paul, who is the predominant writer of the New Testament, realizes his helplessness. He appeals to God for the help he needs. In AA 12-Step, the appeal goes out to a “power greater than ourselves.” Was Paul a man of weak character? Christians will argue that he was a giant among the Apostles. Certainly he was a man of strong character, but at the same time, limited by the human condition.
It’s too easy to blame weak character. We are all limited by the human condition.
Drug addiction is a brain disease.
Drug addiction is a brain disease. Every type of drug of abuse has its own individual mechanism for changing how the brain functions.
But regardless of which drug a person is addicted to, many of the effects it has on the brain are similar: they range from changes in the molecules and cells that make up the brain, to mood changes, to changes in memory processes and thinking, and sometimes changes in motor skills such as walking and talking. And these changes have a huge influence on all aspects of a person's behavior.
A drug can become the single most powerful motivator in a drug abuser's existence. He or she will do almost anything for the drug. This comes about because drug use has changed the individual's brain, their behavior, their social and other functioning in critical ways.